Wednesday, 9 December 2020
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Families and Social Services, Senator Ruston. Yesterday, on Sky News, Senator Canavan said this about the cashless debit card:
I think it's now time we take the evidence on board and roll it out across the country.
Does this reflect the Morrison government's position?
I thank Senator Dodson for his question. Senator Dodson, you would be aware, as we are all aware, that we are currently debating a bill that is before this parliament that seeks to deal with existing trial sites and also income management recipients in the Northern Territory and Cape York. Nowhere in that bill does it contain the intention for any new communities or any new participants to be added to the cashless debit card system or income management across Australia.
So, Senator Dodson, I can assure you that the bill that is before you at the moment in this place is an absolute reflection of the existing policy of this government in relation to income management and the cashless debit card. But it does give me the opportunity—and I'm sure I'm going to have many more opportunities before this day is out—to put on the record that the cashless debit card is a superior piece of technology that allows people on the card to go about their daily lives, unlike people on the BasicsCard, and use this piece of technology in the same way as anybody else sitting in this chamber would use the credit card or debit card that is currently in their wallets.
I acknowledge the extraordinary work of Senator O'Sullivan and the team of people that he's been working with over recent months to make sure that that technology is developed in such a way that the user experience for people that are on the card is absolutely seamless and that the card appears to be no different and acts no differently from any other card that you or I would have in our wallets. I acknowledge that we will continue to work to make sure that we provide the very best technology to support Australians who need our help.
In February this year, Minister, in relation to the cashless debit card, you said:
The reason we haven't done it in the major cities is because we need to deal with the technology issue, which we are now close to resolving—
and you've just said that you've fixed all of that up. You also said that it does need to have a broader application. Can the minister confirm that the government's policy of making the cashless debit card permanent in the current trial sites and the Northern Territory is just the first stage of the national round-up? (Time expired)
Thank you, Senator Dodson, for your question. No, I can't confirm that, because that is not the case. But one of the very important things about the changes that we're proposing at the moment is to make sure that we do use technology to provide assistance to Australians to make sure that they have the very best opportunity to be able to use this card in the way that you and I use the cards that are in our wallet, including some of the technological advances that Senator O'Sullivan has been working with, like putting the card on your phone, for example, so that you're able to swipe it. As I mentioned in response to the question that I was asked by Senator McCarthy, we are also working with the Traditional Credit Union in the Northern Territory so that we can get a very good understanding as part of them becoming, hopefully, the issuer of the card going forward for people in the Northern Territory who will be on the cashless debit card.
The Prime Minister said the cashless debit card is 'commending itself for wider application'. Can the minister give an ironclad guarantee that the cashless debit card will never, ever be expanded?
I thank Senator Dodson for his question. Clearly, Senator Dodson has not heard what I said in my response to the primary question, which is that the policy of this government is reflected in the bill that is before this chamber as we stand here now.
But we need to be really careful that we actually tell the truth and put the facts on the record when we discuss this card. There are many misconceptions that are spread around about this card, and there was an attempt to perpetrate another one in this place a few minutes ago with the question from Senator McCarthy. I've now had the opportunity to read the ASIC letter that has been sent to Mr Stephen Jones MP, the shadow Assistant Treasurer, and I'll just read you a line out of that letter:
However, section 12DL does not prohibit the unsolicited issue of the debit card, or a deposit account to which the debit card is linked …
I think that categorically states the answer.